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Matter Of Mind

Neerja Birla's work on mental health is more critical during covid times than ever before
twitter-logoAjita Shashidhar | Print Edition: October 4, 2020
Matter Of Mind
Neerja Birla, Chairperson, MPower

Over 42.5 per cent of employees in the private sector suffer from various forms of mental health issues, including anxiety or depression, but ironically, not many are willing to acknowledge it. And it strikes irrespective of gender. In fact, over 65 per cent of the callers on the Covid-19 mental health helpline, set up by Mpower in partnership with the Brihan Mumbai Municipal Corporation, were men, says Neerja Birla, Founder and Chairperson, Mpower. "Even men have their share of issues, but there is so much stereotypism that they don't want to express. An anonymous helpline helped them to express themselves freely."

"Initially, there was a lot of panic around the pandemic and people called to get advice on how to deal with it. Many were worried about their jobs. Loneliness was a huge issue too," she adds. During the lockdown, the company also launched e-clinic services in smaller towns and cities, including Nagpur, Aurangabad, Nashik and Kolhapur, where it is partnering with general practitioners and psychiatrists. The mental health foundation under Birla's leadership has also tried to help families of Mumbai Police and BMC workers during the lockdown. "Our team made more than 5,000 calls to their families. MPower has really grown in terms of the number of people we have reached out to though our helpline and outreach programmes."

Birla is particularly excited about the new mental health curriculum, Mind Matters, which Mpower has created for schools. "We need to prepare our kids not just for the best universities, we need to give them skills to deal with life too." Her organisation has tied up with 20 schools.

"We are training teachers for this programme. There aren't many counsellors, therefore, we are training teachers so that they are able to give the red flag the moment they notice any sign of depression or anxiety in a child," she explains.

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